Where did Walt Disney get his ideas? Books of course! He was a creative genius who brought hundreds of stories to life through his animated art. The majority of his movies were based or loosely based on books and historical stories. Great books make great movies. Animation made the stories and characters come alive. He enchanted us all. Disney magic revived stories and fairy tales that might have been forgotten. Disney was drawn by each story’s magic and created his version of it to strike a chord with the inner child in everyone.
Below is the list of our favorite Disney movies adapted from books. It is not an exhaustive list due to the sheer number of the books made into movies.
Creating Disney Magic
Disney’s whole career was about creating magic for his “guests”. Whether it was a movie, t.v show, or theme park, he focused on the magic within the story. It wasn’t about sitting in front of a screen. He wanted families to spend quality time together. Therefore, every movie produced, he created a Disney book. His published books were the mechanism to bring about great family read along. Do you remember your first Disney book?
Disney & Books
Disney’s first book, which was The Adventures of Mickey Mouse, was published in 1931. Disney continues to publish books to inspire the kid in all of us.
How many of these books have you read? Did the movie motivate you to read the book or vice versa? How many more books became Disney movies? Can you name them? The list below is just a sampling of the hundreds of Disney books we have available on our site. Doing a site search will bring up more options. Happy Searching! Let the Stories Live On.
Disney’s first full-length film, Snow White, premiered on December 21, 1937. It was based on Grimm’s Fairy Tale and cost $1.5 million to produce (remember this was still during the Great Depression), all of which was borrowed. According to historians Walt’s wife and many others begged him not to undertake such a production. No one believed adults would sit through a long animated film. Disney’s gamble paid off and it was officially released on February 4, 1938. It was a hit and grossed around $8 million. And the beginning of the Disney film legacy was off to a tremendous start.
The second of Disney’s long line of books made into feature films is Pinocchio – taken from Carlo Collodi’s book of the same name. Pinocchio was released on February 23, 1940.
Collodi’s book, Le avventure di Pinocchio was published as a book in 1883. It didn’t hit America until 1911 when it was finally translated into English. It is said Walt Disney owned the original Italian edition.
Cinderella was Disney’s fifth animated feature film. Charles Perrault was the author though the Grimm brothers have a version also. It took six years to make and became the highest-grossing film of the time. Cinderella debated on February 15th, 1950.
Disney released the animated version of Robin Hood on November 8, 1973. It was the first production post Walt Disney’s death, and he wasn’t involved. However, most of the content was taken from a scraped feature – Reynard the Fox. It is another example of Disney making books into movies.
This lovable pups made their splash across the big screen on January 25,1961. Disney’s creative magic brought music and visual context to Dodie Smith’s book by the same name. Who here didn’t want a Dalmatian after watching? Or when the neighborhood dogs bark, do you think of the twilight bark.
December 2, 1965 was the day the sly Siamese cat captured the hearts of audiences. Already popular in book form, D.C. was brought to life by Disney. It is based on a series of books by The Gordons originally titled Undercover Cat. The movie was redone in 1997, but the Siamese cat was replaced with a mixed breed cat.
Ariel, the mermaid that captured the world’s hearts, began as a Danish fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson. Disney released the animated feature November 17, 1989. Do you remember the first time you saw it? It grossed over $100 million and the toys quickly followed. Every little girl dreamed of being a mermaid. Have you ever read the fairytale? Most have not. Pick up a copy today and read to see the differences.
Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book leaps on the big screen on October 18, 1967. Disney put his magic into the film and Baloo, Mowgli, and Shere Khan bring the jungles of India to life. The music and animations are endearing teaching us all to stop and enjoy the Bare Necessities of Life.
However Kipling’s book highlights the abandonment and fostering he felt in his own upbringing. Beyond that, it focuses on finding one’s place in the world and respect for law and order. Lord Baton-Powell who was a friend of Kiplings and borrowed phrases for his scout program.
Friendship beyond boundaries is the main theme in both the book and movie – The Fox and the Hound. The Disney rendition exploded on to the big screen July 10, 1981. The film was a loose interpretation of Daniel P. Mannix’s book. It wasn’t considered a hit even though it grossed over $63 million. It has a large following still today.
Mannix’s book focuses more on the ever changing world. It was written in 1967 and won several awards. It’s a great read.
Where would the world be without Mary Poppins? She descended on to the big screen giving children every where the magic between order and fun. Why should we have to choose between the two? Julie Andrews is the perfect – practically perfect that is- Mary Poppins, English nanny to the Banks children. The music, characters, dance, and morals combine to make this an all time favorite Disney film.
P.L. Travers held onto to her beloved nanny for years. In total there are 8 books in the series beginning in 1938 and ending in 1988. The differences between the movie and the books make reading the books a wholesome new journey into the Banks’ lives.
June 19, 1998 Mulan rode onto the big screen highlighting this ancient Chinese folk story. The original was a short tale but Disney put their magic to it and created an epic tale of courage, feminine heroism, and family. It is the 36th animated feature by Disney.
JM Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy and Disney seem to be a match made in heaven. The animated film version flew on to the big screen February 5, 1953. Did you know in 1913 Walt played the part of Peter Pan in school. With a mishap, he ended up literally flying into the audience. Who knows if it was due to this he fought hard to obtain the rights to produce the featured animation (it took 4 years to obtain the rights). The rights had been bequeathed to a children’s hospital in London. It was the last film where all nine original animators worked together. Both the book and the movie are worth reading/watching.
August 14, 1942 a dear leaped his way into our hearts. Bambi is based on Felix Salten’s book of the same name. The film came out during World War II and the budget was tight. Still, Bambi entertained the masses and was a hit. However, to get closer to Salten’s storyline you really must read the book. Disney didn’t have the resources to go into details and much of the original story is missing. But who can forget in spring when al the animals are twitterpated?
Belle in Beauty and the Beast completely illustrates the beauty, charm, and intelligence of well read women. However, the story behind it is more fascinating when you learn it was inspired by a true story. The fairytale is called La Belle et la Bete by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. It was published in 1740. Barbot based it on the marriage of Petrus Gonsalvus and his bride-to-be Catherine. Petrus suffered from hypertrichosis which causes thick hair to grow all over your body.
Oh boy, Frozen hit the screen and the music stuck in every child’s mind for months – “Let it go. . . let it go. . .” Despite Frozen’s popularity, many quickly scrambled to put together the wide gaps in the storyline. Not sure what happened in the editing room, but major pieces seemed to be missing. No worries – the book, The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson quickly fills in those plot holes. It’s a beautiful story and the music and animation make up for the gaps. Reading the book is a must for all Frozen fans.
Oh, the whimsical life of Pooh and Christopher Robin. Who didn’t love the stories by A.A Milne? They are timeless tales of childhood and is wonder. Each character is a study in personalities and acceptance.
When Disney picked up the rights, the Disney team got a gem. Pooh is childhood wrapped up in a cuddly teddy bear and friends. No Disney character has sold more apparel, toys, etc. than Pooh and friends. We all desire to revisit the simplicity of childhood once in awhile. When was the last time you visit the pages in the 100 Acre Woods?
The classic love story of falling asleep and waking to your prince charming. Awakening to audiences on January 2, 1959, Sleeping Beauty became an instant success. It was the last fairy tale Walt Disney worked on himself. The tale traces back to Charles Perrault and many have since adapted it.
The original book The Sword in the Stone was published in 1938. In 1958, it was republished as the first book of The Once and Future King tetralogy by T. H. White. Disney released it to US audiences December 25, 1963. It was the 18th animated feature of Disney. The story follows Merlin’s training of young Arthur.
Written in 1865 by Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland has charmed and delighted readers for years. Disney worked on several renditions of this beloved children’s tale starting in 1933. It wasn’t until 1947 when Walt Disney got serious about producing it.
July 26,1951 Alice popped onto the big screen along with Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the mad Hatter, and many more unforgettable characters. To fully understand the adventure and message, one should delve into the pages of the book. It’s a great stimulant to the imagination.
Just in time for the holiday season, Aladdin flew onto the big screen November 25, 1992. Disney, yet again, put magic into a storybook – 1001 Nights or Arabian Nights. Robin Williams as the genie can’t be matched. As I reread the classic telling of Aladdin, Williams voice comes through the written word.
Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain hit the big screen on July 24, 1985 making it the 25th animated feature. It was Disney’s first PG film. The movie is based on the first two books in the Prydain series which contains five books total. The Chronicles of Prydain is based on Welsh mythology.
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